“Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.”
50 Shades Of Grey:
50 Shades Darker:
50 Shades Freed: Review to come.
E. L. James‘ 50 Shades of Grey trilogy is all anyone can talk about at the minute. Jumping on the band wagon, I’ve decided to read the books for myself. Drawn in to the somewhat enticing fantasy of this new British author, it only took me three days to finish the first book, but is 50 Shades of Grey a deep and erotic tale that promises to fulfil the needs of every housewife in Britain? Or is it just the behind-the-scenes of Twilight? Most of all, can it keep up a heated sexual pace throughout all three books? Whilst the first novel in the trilogy has already topped the best-seller lists around the world and has set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, it certainly isn’t a work of classic literature. So why has it got every female running to the shop to buy it and read whilst their other halves or otherwise occupied? The answer – sex, sex, sex, sex, sex.
50 Shades of Grey
The first instalment in a trilogy of novels follows college graduate Anastasia Steele who meets and falls for a young business magnate named Christian Grey. But this isn’t a love story. Grey is a man consumed by the need to control. Powerless to resist his intimidating beauty, Ana soon finds herself signing her body away to fulfil his erotic needs. Desperate to get close to this secretive yet alluring man, she prepares to explore her own dark desires, as the couple embark on a passionately physical affair – the type that’s best kept behind closed, and locked, doors.
Centred heavily around the sex life of this couple, 50 Shades of Grey is a very raunchy book, which is the only reason it has been so successful. Many of us are admittedly reading it because we’re not getting any – or at least we’re not happy with what we are getting – so this is how we get our cheap thrills for a few hours. Whilst it does that well, it shouldn’t be getting the credit it currently is. Why not? Because it is no way well-written, developed, or told.
The biggest flaw of the novel is that it lacks any personal detail. The main character, Ana, is so underdeveloped that it’s hard to understand how an author managed to get away with creating a character with such little depth. Descriptions of anything apart from the feeling in between her legs are completely lost, and most of the time James can’t even find the words to explain that properly. But 50 Shades of Grey isn’t notorious for its elegant style of writing or powerful protagonists, is it? No, it’s known for making us feel a little hot under the collar and shy away from reading it in public.
Described by some as ‘Mummy Porn’, I do have to defend the novel in some way because, as a 21-year-old myself, I can agree that it tickles the fancies of us younger females as well, however minor. As a recent Journalism graduate looking for work in publishing myself – much like Ana – there is much of the story that I can relate to; I can easily picture myself in her shoes, but it’s why the book is getting the attention of the older ladies that is puzzling me. Whilst the sex scenes are written with all ages in mind, away from these scenes the story isn’t that great, as we are left with absolutely dire dialogue and not much else. My confusion comes from the fact that, as the book progresses, it begins to focus on adolescent emotions and becomes dominated by feelings of love rather than of the raw passion that it started with. There were many times that I felt the novel was getting too PG for its erotic nature – and I’m the same age as Ana’s character – so there really isn’t that much else going for it. Whilst I can appreciate that Ana doesn’t agree to Christian’s hard-hitting plan straight away and that she becomes persistent in trying to draw out his secret sensitive side, it quickly becomes too much like a high school romance. Yes it reflects well of Ana’s age, reacting in a way that is more believable than a twenty-something jumping straight in to the full pelts of whips and chains, but is this what we want from an erotica novel? Heading in the way of extreme BDSM, the novel would be allowed to get a little darker at times; it’s supposed to be sexy and daring, but unfortunately the couple’s emotions end up getting in the way far too often – especially at the end.
The novel’s second biggest flaw is the constant similarities it has with Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight franchise. Developed from James’ own Twilight fan fiction, originally titled Master of the Universe, the relationship of Christian and Ana is very much the one created by Meyer between Edward and Bella. Here’s a few examples:
- how Christian constantly wants to know what Ana is thinking but he can’t read her,
- the way there’s something dangerous about him that no one can put their finger on,
- the way he wants to know everything about Ana and be in control of that,
- the magnetic pull that Ana feels for Christian that she finds impossible to resist,
- the way Christian always wants to do so much more but has to control himself,
- the way he turns up in seconds whenever she needs him,
- the fact that Ana is the first girl to meet his family because he hasn’t trusted anybody else.
This is Bella and Edward.
In some ways I can’t complain; 50 Shades Of Grey is what I both love and hate about the Twilight novels. When people always criticise the films I employ them to read Meyer’s novels first; whilst not a particularly well written series of novels themselves, the reason I enjoyed them was because of how well Meyer described this connection between Bella and Edward. There were constantly tense scenes where Bella and Edward wanted to take their relationship further but couldn’t because of the nature of the franchise, with the films, especially, relating to a much younger audience. With 50 Shades Of Grey, however, James was allowed to do what Meyer both couldn’t and didn’t want to; 50 Shades of Grey is Twilight with sex, with Ana losing her virginity quite early on in the book so that it could develop her desires to explore her sexuality further. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
We are again headed back to the fact that the subject of sex is 50 Shades Of Grey‘s best – if only – quality, but even these scenes are not always well written. Whilst they are at times quite erotic, there are three ways that James manages to constantly ruin these moments of intense pleasure, just as you find yourself divulging into them.
1. James never uses the word for vagina, or any word remotely similar. I lie, she actually says ‘vagina’ once about half way through the book, but as for the hundreds of other times she references that part of the body, she uses the words ‘there’ or ‘my sex’, both of which sound ridiculous mid-dirty sentence.
2. The use of italic comments in between sentences. Whilst these comments give an additional insight into Ana’s mind, usually describing the battle between her voice of reason (her subconscious) and her voice of desire (her inner goddess), adding a certain depth to the story, the phrase “inner goddess” itself becomes irritating beyond belief. Furthermore, these comments also show the more childish side of Ana’s personality, with comments such as, “He’s so freaking hot“, reminding us of young her mind is, with sentences such as, “My inner goddess is thrilled. I can do this. I can fuck him with my mouth“, making you question why you’re enjoying this novel at all. Such italic comments do not fit in with the rest of the novel, again only diverting our minds from the raunchy sex to something much more boring.
3. The most annoying for me -the phrases “Holy shit” and “Oh My”. The first time I read these words I cringed at how off-putting they sounded around the descriptions of heavy breathing and nipple biting, but they somehow manage to creep into almost every paragraph. Again written in italics, these phrases are said far too often and end up making you lose what little interest you had.
Here’s an example using all three:
“I gasp. Not taking his eyes off mine, again he runs his tongue along my instep and then his teeth. Shit. I groan… how can I feel this, there.”
Together they just completely ruin the moment.
In the same way that these phrases are repeated in the novel, James also often repeats whole chunks of dialogue, the biggest examples being Christian’s constant comments about Ana always biting her lip and then of Ana always commenting on Christian’s smile or him ‘cocking’ his head. In a way these sentences are some of the sexiest descriptions in the novel, allowing the reader to make a decent image of what the character’s are both doing and feeling, but they are again mentioned at least once in every chapter, which means they start to lose their impact pretty quickly. The sex scenes, too, become quite samey, with Christian always complimenting Ana’s scent and soft skin, as if they are the only compliments that James has ever been given to draw on. There may always be a new position or sex toy that the couple use, but in the end it’s just Christian giving three big thrusts and Ana shattering into tiny, orgasmic pieces.
With sentences such as, “He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle“, 50 Shades of Grey turns out to be more cringey than sexy, and the plot does get completely ridiculous in places, but I will definitely have to read the final two parts, even if it is, yet again, just out of further curiosity.
50 Shades Darker
In all honesty, I might as well copy and paste my review from the first book, and even two chapters in I would recommend you not to bother.
If the repetitiveness of the phrases and conversations and talk of Ana’s “inner goddess” were annoying you in the first novel, then I wouldn’t go anywhere near this second instalment. With a lot more repetitiveness, a more ridiculous story line creeping in, and far too much focus on love over sex, it just gets a whole lot worse.
That’s all I have to say.
50 Shades Freed
Review to come, if I can handle it…
What it all comes down to is that 50 Shades Of Grey is just one woman’s fantasy written down. Whilst it’s enjoyable to be part of the fantasy ourselves, unfortunately it just isn’t very well written. We may all be ashamed to be reading it, and many of us – like myself – will maintain that it is only of curiosity, but I have to admit that, for the best part of reading the first novel, at least, I was a little hooked. It quickly lost its impact though.
As for my hopes for the roles in the upcoming film adaptation, this is who I would like to play the leads:
Christian – Richard Madden (Game Of Thrones, Sirens).
He may not be up for the role of Christian, but oh boy I wish he was. He’s certainly who I’m picturing anyway! Out of the options that the internet is giving – as much as I would like Ryan Gosling, the booky’s favourite, to take the part, I don’t think he would fit the character. Instead, I think I would have to go with the Man of Steel, Henry Cavill. Then again, any decent actor taking the part would be a huge dint in their career, so maybe they should just give it to some unknown actor with a pretty face.
Ana – Brit Marling (Another Earth).
Of course, I haven’t given as much thought to Ana’s character as I have Christian’s and I don’t know who’s in talks for her role yet, but my only hope is that she isn’t played by Selena Gomez. I know Kristen Stewart is the name on many people’s lips but, whilst I do enjoy her acting, the story is already too close to Twilight for that to even be an option. I think Marling’s acting has the right amount of vulnerability and naivety to it, but also the passion and strength that is needed of Ana too. She’s a truly great actress, but is, again, somebody who I don’t think will even be questioned for the role.
Either way, the roles are both likely to go to more mainstream actors and the film will almost definitely head in the same direction as Twilight. I’m not expecting much, but I’m still very intrigued as to how it will be developed on to the big screen… even if they will have to add a whole load of plot and detail in to the adaptation to make it work.